Strength Training for Extreme Sports
How do the worlds best extreme sports athletes perform at their best? What can they add to their training to increase performance and reduce their likelihood of injury? As an extreme sport athlete what do you want? For most extreme sport athletes their sport is their passion and they just want to do it as much as possible, as well as possible! Is there a way we can assist them in doing that?
I have seen first-hand the benefit strength training can have for extreme sport athletes. Downhill mountain biking is one extreme sport I have been lucky enough to get to be the strength and conditioning coach for. This has allowed me to see why the best in the world use it as part of their preparation.
The principles of why we use strength and conditioning carry over across all sports. We are looking to make athletes more physically prepared for their performance. We want them to have the capacity to perform at their best. This means we want them strong enough, fit enough, fast enough and robust enough to perform their sport! What is enough of these qualities is beyond the scope of this article and even then up for debate. Initially however, these guiding principles give us something to work towards.
Usually when you start working with a sport you will perform a needs analysis – assessing the sport and movements and demands which it contains. My boss, Greg Smail, originally gave me a very simple way of doing this for downhill athletes. The secret? Ask them. A simple, “Where do you feel it when you come off a ride?” was all I needed to get piles of information from the bikers about where to focus the strength program!
If you are an extreme sports athlete then ask yourself that question. “Where do I feel it most after a long day doing my sport?” followed by “What parts of the ride/sport are the most tiring/difficult?”. Then armed with these answers you can plan a strength program to improve your performance. Better yet you can find a strength and conditioning coach to plan it for you!
Armed with this information a strength program can be planned which allows you to perform at you best for longer. No more after lunch lagging when you are on a trail or track! You can eliminate or relieve the nagging injuries which hold you back from doing your sport as much as you want!
In the case of the downhill athletes I get to work with a lot of our training is focusing on the force absorption aspect of a ride. Allowing the athlete’s bodies to withstand the impact of propelling down a hill at high speed!
How does this look in practice? Due to the low training age of the athletes – for some it will be their first experience of strength training – it looks the same as a “normal” strength program. Each lift has elements which will help improve force absorption and force production. We may get to a point where we focus only on the force absorption through eccentric (lowering only) training but for now we should focus on getting the most benefit out of the most basic work. Too many people will jump into advanced programs before they need to. Part of structuring training is trying to maximise your adaptations throughout, if something is only going to make you better once you don’t want to waste it when you could of just stuck to basic training and still improved!
Below is a sample program to be used as an introduction to strength training for the extreme sport athlete. The beauty of this program is that it does not require a gym to be done! Goblet Squats can be loaded holding any heavy household good/small child or a ruck sake filled with books etc! If bodyweight press ups are too easy you can place extra weight on your back. Again, lunges can be done holding something to add extra load. Inverted row is where things can get confusing, but you can perform them using only a dining table! Click the video below to see how!
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